Virginia Energy Sense interviewed Virginia Beach Convention Center Sustainability Coordinator Kimberlee Dobbins to talk about how her organization is playing a role in energy conservation. Among many notable energy saving accomplishments, the convention center is the first in the U.S. to earn LEED® Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Please provide a short summary of what the Virginia Beach Convention Center is and the work it does. The Virginia Beach Convention Center is over 500,000 square feet of stylish event space just blocks from the beach and in the heart of Virginia Beach’s oceanfront resort area. Our eco-friendly, state-of-the-art building can handle meetings, conventions, trade shows and sporting events with ease. We pride ourselves in being the nation’s first convention center to earn LEED Gold certification as an existing building from the U.S. Green Building Council. We always encourage people to ask us about our partnerships with Virginia Green, Virginia Energy Sense, and Energy Star. We have a multitude of sustainability initiatives in place to conserve energy, water and our natural environment, all while providing the utmost in comfort and unparalleled service. With an expansive variety of hotels, entertainment, shopping and dining surrounding the Virginia Beach Convention Center, visitors can enjoy all the perks of coastal charm and big-city amenities, right at your fingertips. What is your role in the organization and how long has the organization been a part of Virginia Green? As Sustainability Coordinator at the Virginia Beach Convention Center (VBCC), my role is to educate, train, and provide guidance on sustainability matters for management, staff and clients. I work with staff and contractors to maintain our LEED certification and maintain partnerships with Virginia Green, Virginia Energy Sense, and the Hampton Roads Green Building Council. Aside from the internationally recognized LEED certification program, Virginia Green is our most recognized sustainability program. From our initial grassroots efforts, the Virginia Beach Convention Center is proud to be the first Virginia Green Convention Center, an accomplishment earned in 2007 and later recognized by Governor Tim Kaine when Virginia Beach became the first Virginia Green Destination. We have continued our efforts, always trying to raise the bar on sustainability. We hope you will join us at the 5th Annual Virginia Green Travel Conference taking place here at Virginia Beach Convention Center March 1-2, 2018. What are some ways in which your organization saves energy? VBCC has made great strides in energy efficiency. We began with great building design, building automation controls for heating, cooling, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC), and automated lighting controls. We later become an Energy Star partner, tracking energy use in Portfolio Manager. From there, we joined Virginia Green, earned the prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) green building certification, and joined Virginia Energy Sense. We have upgraded over 80 percent of our lighting to energy efficient LEDs and CFLs, including our 150,000 square foot exhibit hall, which is 100 percent LED lighting. HVAC uses the most energy. We have implemented an automated demand response program that is integrated into building controls automation system to lower our peak demand. This saves electricity and dollars. In addition, we are participating in two programs with CPower Energy Management: an energy efficiency program and a PJM Demand Response program. Both programs reduce the load on the PJM energy grid and earn VBCC dollars for successful participation. What are the benefits of conserving energy in your workplace? Aside from the environmental benefit of reduced greenhouse gas emissions, lowering our carbon footprint, and using less of our natural resources to generate energy, there is a definite economic benefit. Use less, spend less. VBCC staff are educated and engaged in our efforts. They know that fewer dollars spent on utilities provides funds for growth in technology, building upkeep, and other improvements to make their jobs easier. How do your customers feel about your energy efficiency efforts? Our clients feel the benefit of only modest, if any, increase in rates for meeting space rental and services. We are able to provide many environmentally friendly services at no additional charge. As a City owned and operated facility, Virginia Beach taxpayers also benefit from our energy efficiency in the form of lower operating costs. Looking ahead, how do you see Virginia meeting its goal of becoming more energy efficient? Through programs like Virginia Green, Virginia Energy Sense, and Energy Star, consumers gain valuable knowledge on how to use less energy in their own homes and businesses. Such programs create awareness and ultimately influence behavior which leads to a more energy efficient Virginia.